In an in-class paragraph development exercise (described here), a freshman writing student invented a quote (quite acceptable under the circumstances) and attributed it to "Dr. Guy-in-the-Back-of-the-Room," whom the student described as having played polo for Harvard. The student was half right: Dr. Guy-in-the-Back-of-the-Room is a Harvard graduate. But what was he doing in my class and why don't my students know who he is?
Last things first: they don't know who he is because they're beginning freshmen and Dr. Guy teaches upper-level management courses, and he's in my classroom representing the committee responsible for deciding whether I get promoted to full professor this year.
I've been seeing various incarnations of Dr. Guy-in-the-Back-of-the-Room since last Friday, when the provost visited my postcolonial literature class and took my breath away. I was reading a piece of Derek Walcott's Omeros out loud and caught out of the corner of my eye the movement of the provost's pen scribbling madly across a notepad, and immediately an invisible hand grabbed hold of my throat and started squeezing.
A female Dr. Guy is visiting my African-American literature class all this week. She doesn't scribble but she has a very expressive face so that when I read that bit from Countee Cullen's "The Shroud of Color" where he describes himself quivering on the ground "like a flayed and bleeding thing," I had to look away. The Dr. Guy visiting my freshman writing class all week, on the other hand, just about has to sit on his hands to control his desire to say, "Ooh ooh! Pick me, pick me!"
I'll have some version of Dr. Guy in my classes all this week and then they'll be free to go back to the committee and decide whether I'm worthy to drop the "Associate" from my title. Meanwhile, my students and I are taking the various Dr. Guys on a pretty interesting ride--around the world via poetry and polo ponies.